A former Ulster Unionist Party MLA has been involved in an online spat with the DUP leadership candidate Sir Jeffrey Donaldson.
Ross Hussey, a former MLA for West Tyrone, said he hoped the MP for Lagan Valley didn’t get the role out of what Mr Hussey described as a “personal dislike”.
The two men were both colleagues in the UUP, before Mr Donaldson famously defected from the party in 2003 over disagreements around the leadership of then party leader David Trimble.
Mr Donaldson announced his candidacy for the vacant role in the DUP on Monday, writing in a letter to party representatives that it “grieves me to see divisions, especially when they are played out on the public stage”.
Referencing the letter, Mr Hussey said he was “laughing reading this”, before adding: “He leaked like a sieve at every UU Council meeting going out to the press to express his opposition to the [Good Friday] agreement.
“He knows very well how to highlight divisions in public as he did in the UUP. Out of personal dislike I hope he doesn’t get it.”
Iâm still laughing reading this, he leaked like a sieve at every UUCouncil meeting going out to the press to express his opposition to the agreement. He knows very well how to highlight divisions in public as he did in the UUP. Out of personal dislike I hope he doesnât get it— ROSS HUSSEY (@RossMHussey) May 3, 2021
Responding, Mr Donaldson said he “wasn’t aware it was personal”.
Mr Hussey added: “I didn’t like the way you left the UUP I felt it was dishonourable to do it the way you did. We all have long memories in NI and I could not forgive you for your actions at that time.”
Describing the Mr Hussey as a “decent man”, Mr Donaldson said he “enjoyed working” with him.
Mr Hussey was formerly a reservist in the RUC and PSNI and served on the Policing Board until his retirement from the Assembly in 2017.
Adding that they were able to “set aside old enmities” around the recognition for RUC reservists, Mr Donaldson concluded by writing “keep safe”.
Mr Hussey suggested if Jeffrey Donaldson won the DUP leadership there would be “a lot of bridges to be mended to unite unionism”.
"Attempting to liberalise some of your more conservative MLAs will be a task,” he added.
A date for the DUP leadership election has not yet been announced, however it is expected that party officials are to meet on Tuesday to agree the procedure and timetable for the contest.
The leadership contest between Mr Donaldson and Mr Poots is the first contest in the party's 50-year history.